Will turkeys vote for Christmas?

MPC recently hosted a breakfast with the now Conservative Mayor for the Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - Cllr James Palmer.  Unsurprisingly, given the nature of his powers and the challenges facing the region in its attempt to rival Silicon Valley, the conversation focused heavily on infrastructure. 

Perhaps controversially, James Palmer proposes dissolving Cambridgeshire County Council and giving additional powers to the District and City Councils, with his own combined authority acting as a strategic oversight.  It remains to be seen whether the 61 County Councillors (37 of whom are fellow Conservatives) will be the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas, or whether he will have more of a fight on his hands than he anticipates. 

The bigger question though is will it work?  James Palmer wants greater efficiency by moving highways and planning under one administrative body.   Anyone working in the planning industry will have experienced delays and indecision caused by statutorily required ‘to-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ between county highways and the local planning authority - so anything that improves this is to be welcomed.  However, would such a merger deliver the major infrastructure upgrades and development Cambridgeshire needs any faster, better, or cheaper than the current system?

The region already has a myriad of vested interests and varied constituent needs: differences between the cities and the villages that surround them; disconnected and often forgotten fenland areas; and the perennial ‘Town vs Gown’ challenge within Cambridge itself.  Factor in the poor track record of the planning authorities to work together and deliver the required housing numbers across the region, it is hard to see how they will align to prioritise, fund and deliver infrastructure which is not co-terminus with their spheres of influence.   If the sceptics are wrong and they can work together more effectively under a new structure, it will be highly beneficial for the region.

Cllr Palmer also touched on his vision to prevent urban sprawl whilst allowing businesses in the area to grow and develop.  A vision he hopes to realise at least in part, through the use of light rail.  He is no fan of Cambridge’s guided bus system and believes light rail is a more efficient method of transportation allowing the creation and expansion of satellite towns whilst preventing urban sprawl. 

With many of our clients and projects, and even some of our staff resident under the jurisdiction of the new Mayor, we will watch how James Palmer tackles his new role with interest… 

MPC recently hosted a breakfast with the now Conservative Mayor for the Combined Authority for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - Cllr James Palmer.  Unsurprisingly, given the nature of his powers and the challenges facing the region in its attempt to rival Silicon Valley, the conversation focused heavily on infrastructure. 

Perhaps controversially, James Palmer proposes dissolving Cambridgeshire County Council and giving additional powers to the District and City Councils, with his own combined authority acting as a strategic oversight.  It remains to be seen whether the 61 County Councillors (37 of whom are fellow Conservatives) will be the proverbial turkeys voting for Christmas, or whether he will have more of a fight on his hands than he anticipates. 

The bigger question though is will it work?  James Palmer wants greater efficiency by moving highways and planning under one administrative body.   Anyone working in the planning industry will have experienced delays and indecision caused by statutorily required ‘to-ing’ and ‘fro-ing’ between county highways and the local planning authority - so anything that improves this is to be welcomed.  However, would such a merger deliver the major infrastructure upgrades and development Cambridgeshire needs any faster, better, or cheaper than the current system?

The region already has a myriad of vested interests and varied constituent needs: differences between the cities and the villages that surround them; disconnected and often forgotten fenland areas; and the perennial ‘Town vs Gown’ challenge within Cambridge itself.  Factor in the poor track record of the planning authorities to work together and deliver the required housing numbers across the region, it is hard to see how they will align to prioritise, fund and deliver infrastructure which is not co-terminus with their spheres of influence.   If the sceptics are wrong and they can work together more effectively under a new structure, it will be highly beneficial for the region.

Cllr Palmer also touched on his vision to prevent urban sprawl whilst allowing businesses in the area to grow and develop.  A vision he hopes to realise at least in part, through the use of light rail.  He is no fan of Cambridge’s guided bus system and believes light rail is a more efficient method of transportation allowing the creation and expansion of satellite towns whilst preventing urban sprawl. 

With many of our clients and projects, and even some of our staff resident under the jurisdiction of the new Mayor, we will watch how James Palmer tackles his new role with interest… 

This article was written by Sereena Davey, Associate Director at MPC